Brave? Sadly not. While Behaviour Interactive has certainly delivered a solid if unspectacular take on Disney/Pixar’s rather enchanting tale of a rebellious Scottish princess, the final product is more than a little derivative.
After the high watermark provided by Avalanche Studios’ stellar work on bridging the gap between movie and videogame via their surprisingly innovative take on Toy Story 3, Brave, by comparison, feels like a return to the tried and tested, but rarely exciting world of kid-friendly combat/platforming. Don’t get me wrong, nothing on display in Brave is particularly bad, and when you take into account the history of movie to videogame adaptations, Brave arguably stands as one of the better ones, but when viewed in the cold hard light of day, Behaviour Interactive’s Brave is little more than a decent(ish) reinterpretation of the Lego template that has served Traveller’s Tales for quite so long.
Complete with inexplicable coins that appear upon the destruction of enemies and certain parts of the scenery, Brave delivers yet another, largely innovation-free take on these now, almost default genre tropes. Basic combat, basic puzzles, basic platforming – I appreciate that it’s obviously made for a younger audience, but it would be nice to see an attempt to truly bring the source material to life rather than forcing it into a template that doesn’t necessarily suit the tone or story. There is a largely forgettable Kinect-based archery game that provides a relatively unique, if certainly brief distraction from the core gameplay, but even this has been obviously tacked on at the end of development as some sort of box-ticking exercise and in no way effects the core experience beyond providing yet another way to rack up some additional coinage.
Still, lack of innovation aside, Brave does a fine job of catering to its target audience and despite far too many insta-deaths courtesy of the dodgy fixed camera, gameplay is mostly sound and largely enjoyable. The coins that you collect as you progress can be used to upgrade Merida’s skills and abilities, but for the most part, you’ll be using a simple but effective combo system for close range combat and a twin-stick style shooting mechanic for the more prevalent cross bow attacks.
Beyond the few basic upgrades that are unlocked as your progress, any longevity offered by the combat design comes courtesy of the simplistic but effective elemental battle system. With each enemy labelled as being susceptible to a particular elemental attack, using the right bumper, you can switch between earth, wind, fire and ice-based attacks in order to take down enemies as quickly as possible. It’s a simple enough system, but one that makes combat much more immediate and slightly more tactical than your average twin-stick shooter.
In an attempt to keep things varied across its unsurprisingly short running time, Brave has a host of poorly implemented platforming sections and a handful of extremely simplistic puzzles to get through. Nothing is too taxing, and even the aforementioned insta-death platforming sections never manage to grate too much thanks to Brave’s extremely lenient checkpoint system. There are a few short sections in which you take control of a bear for some basic button mashing action, but without any solid combo or lock on mechanics, it is little more than that.
Oh yeah, the bear…..the story. Well, chances are, if you’re planning on picking up Brave: The Videogame, you’ve probably already seen the movie and are fully aware of what’s going on. The videogame, without completely re-treading the story from the movie, instead opts to vaguely re-enact moments of the movie while filling in a few gaps along the way with an additional tale. For the most part though, it does a decent enough job of framing the action before letting you get down to business. More importantly, the voice work, which is so often phoned in for videogames of this type, is almost universally brilliant. A special mention must go out to the always lovely Kelly Macdonald (the voice of Merida), who clearly approached the role with a real gusto and commitment. The lines might well be nonsense, but they’re made more than bearable by Miss Macdonald’s stellar delivery.
Visually too, while hardly breath-taking, Brave is imbued with enough of Pixar’s unique charm to make it a perfectly pleasant treat for the eyes. Some nice visual flourishes even help it to stand out from its source material while the 2D, hand drawn cut-scenes prove both charming and well suited to the overall experience.
A co-op mode, allowing a second player to jump in as one of the Wisps from the movie does improve Brave’s family friendly credentials, but while technically the same as Merida in terms of abilities and moves, Wisp control actually proves something of a chore thanks to its soft glow visual style often blending into the background and thus making the crafty little critter far too difficult to follow on-screen.
Brave: The Videogame does feel like a step backward from the relative high that was Avalanche Studios’, Toy Story 3, but despite its derivative style and risk-free design, the fact remains that Behaviour Interactive has developed a competent and largely enjoyable family friendly videogame. It hardly going to win over core gamers, but c’mon, it was never made for them. This is a videogame made for the kids who loved the movie, and chances are, they’ll love the videogame just as much.
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